The Humble Brag

so you like to humblebrag

The humble brag.

You know what I’m talking about. It rears it’s ugly head in the form of something like this;

“Just selected to speak at the You’re Awesome Conference. #humblebrag”

“Lastest blog post has over 15,000 views!! #humblebrag”

The point of this post is to tell you one thing. Knock it off!

Now…allow me to explain. This humble brag business sounds and comes off as wanting, no, NEEDING validation for our successes no matter how big or small. Knock it off!

Listen. Chances are if you feel the need to put humble brag in front of something or at the end of the something, you are already doing something that is above and beyond what is expected. Why feel the need to be humble about it? Seriously. If I finish all the races I plan to run this summer (AROO!) do you seriously think I’m going to tweet out, “Hey, just finished a Spartan Race with my best time. #humblebrag”? Heck no! I accomplished MY goal. I ran MY race. Nothing to be humble about and actually something to be very proud about.

The humble brag.

It is a complex aspect of having a digital identity isn’t it? You don’t want to get a reputation for bragging about what you’ve accomplished lately but you also want to let people know something you are proud of. Quite the pickle. Here’s how to avoid the notion that you need to downplay your achievements.

1) Ask, “Do I really need to share this?”
Now, this may sound contradictory but not everything really needs to be shared in a public forum that you feel proud of. If you really want to share it because you just can’t control your excitement, e-mail your inner circle, your board of trustees, your confidence architects. There isn’t a need to get on a soapbox with a megaphone and announcement it (remember that’s what Twitter gives you).

2) Be selective.
If you find yourself doing nothing but sharing accomplishments online, then you run the risk of being a braggart and coming off as narcissistic. If you sandwich the fact that you just got selected for a national committee with “Just finished the most amazing sandwich I made myself” and “Laundry for the day done. I feel so accomplished” then what value are you really giving that committee announcement?

3) Own it.
You did something that got you excited enough to want to scream it from the rooftops. Own it. Don’t downplay it. Don’t be ashamed of it. OWN IT! Just remember, somethings are better shared with your confidence architects versus everyone in your Twittersphere or Facebook connections.

4) Share it.
“But you just told me not to share everything! Joe, this blog is confusing!” What I mean by share it, is use your accomplishment as a springboard for someone else to share theirs.

“Just finished my first 10 mile race!! What was your first race like?”
“Woo! Happy to say I earned an A on my final. What are you working towards these days?”

This allows you to share your excitement for your accomplishment but it opens the door for someone who may be shy about talking about themselves or their accomplishments.

If you can’t be confident and proud in your accomplishments, how can we expect our students to be?

The humble brag.

Knock it off!

This post coincides with one by Mallory Bower which is linked through the word “confidence architects” in this post.

11 thoughts on “The Humble Brag

  1. Love this Joe (and the linking post by Mallory too). This is a fine line to walk. In my experience at the Women’s Leadership Institute, I learned about owning my accomplishments and encouraging others to do the same – but how can we do that without sounding conceited and boastful? There is a gray area in there somewhere, as with most things – but I love your point about using it as a way to invite others to the conversation too. Teri Bump (@tbump) and Ann Marie Klotz (@annmarieklotz) are both fantastic examples of this model.

    • Becca,

      AMK actually came up in conversation about this as someone who is a constant confidence architect! Both great role models for how to celebrate success without this humble brag business.

      Thanks for commenting & reading Becca!


  2. I get it! Stop shouting! After my TEDx talk, I continued to downplay the accomplishment almost to the point of pretending it didn’t happen (actually, I wasn’t sure it had happened at all, the talk itself was a bit of a blur). Even changing my profile pictures and tweeting/posting my talk was fraught with anxiety about what people would say and how it would be perceived – was I ‘bragging’ too much? Given that my talk was about not aspiring to be on a pedestal and not putting others there, there is obviously a lot of grey around this topic for me. As I alluded to on our #saLIVE episode, I hope that a wider platform for my story will inspire more people to reflect and teach, so if that means I share my talk more widely I hope it’s more of encouragement and inspiration instead of bragging. Confidence in itself has always been a challenge for me, so this is a great mental stretch. Thanks!

  3. I haven’t seen this hashtag but I’ve been keeping my head down and a little bit “off the grid” for the last several months so maybe I just missed it. It doesn’t really bother me, though. That’s not because the concept isn’t annoying but because I would appreciate the honesty of outright labeling a particular tweet as an attempt to brag. I think that many, many Twitter messages with well-known hashtags (e.g., some of the chats, #highered) are really about bragging or otherwise drawing attention to oneself whether it be with an announcement, promotion of something, or even a carefully phrased question that is really intended to make one appear very smart, engaged, or caring (I particularly dislike the “Look how hard I’m working!” messages).

    Becca and Lisa bring up good points, too: Constructive announcements about personal and professional accomplishments are not inherently bad or even annoying. In fact, I would prefer that people make such announcements explicit without making false attempts to craft them into messages with other less honest purposes. I don’t want to know about each of the daily accomplishments of people with whom I am not close but the occasional joyful message of accomplishment is welcome especially when the accomplishment is significant and interesting.

    • You need to pick your head up and get back to writing Kevin. Always curious when I see that you commented on one of my posts because you usually are three things; honest, thought-provoking, and pushing me to go deeper into the context of what I’m saying.

      Love it. Your point about the hashtags is interesting. I think depending on the tag, they have generally become more for announcements and less about conversation. For conversations now I look to LinkedIn and G+ – twitter is now more of an RSS feed of sorts with conversations rarely happening unless otherwise specifically scheduled.

      In any case, thanks again for reading and commenting!

  4. Thanks for the post, Joe! I like seeing success in general, especially from those I associate with, including those on facebook, twitter, etc. Seeing folks run their first mile, accomplishing their goals of reading 52 books in 52 weeks are awesome! They inspire me to do the same:)

    So, yes! if we’re somehow connected through social media or otherwise – please keep them coming! It’s a better world that way:)

  5. I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of humblebragging after seeing some of Eric Stoller’s tweets about it. Thanks for this thought-provoking post and tips for avoiding it.

    After trying to figure out exactly what a humblebrag is and if am I doing it I found this useful definition in a New York Times article ( ) : “Outright bragging expects to be met with awe, but humblebragging wants to met with awe and sympathy. It asks for two reactions from its audience, and in so doing makes fools of its beholders twice over.”

    I agree with Joe Sabado’s comment below – I want to hear about successes of those I follow online (Twitter, etc.) It helps me stay motivated to meet my goals. I really appreciate your tip of using it as a springboard to invite others into the conversation. Because when does it go from being useful for the conversation (#safit, etc) to bragging or even humblebragging that should be avoided?

    • Chandler,

      Thanks for reading and sharing that article. I think the struggle is people are either downplaying their accomplishments by tagging it with this humble brag language or they are celebrating every single thing which then comes across as bragging/narcissistic.

      The example I always think of is Ann Marie Klotz. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook. She seems to be accomplishing new things on a weekly basis but she always makes her celebratory tweet/post a prompt for others to do the same. That’s not all though. She doesn’t let those responses just hang there, she acknowledges and encourages so you know her prompt isn’t an empty gesture.

      Hope that helps. It is certainly a narrow line to balance on. Thanks again for reading and engaging!


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